We began this series by looking at what Facebook and Twitter can offer you in your quest to be in touch with the marketplace and your business environment. We'll wrap up now by considering what Google+ can add to the equation for you.
Before going too far with that, let's acknowledge that there are many other vital elements of the Social Media fabric that may be useful to you. If your primary market or constituency is between the ages of 19-32, you should probably be asking some questions about Tumblr. If your area of concern is with homemakers and family managers (ie. Moms and bloggers) then you should be paying close attention to Pinterest. And if you are out to capture the attention of upscale and affluent consumers, you may want to think about what's offered by Yelp! and Foursquare.Indeed, one could spend an entire work week setting up and exploiting the platforms that yield either information or connections related to business.
But one platform that should probably be in your short list is Google+
Much has been written about how, or whether Google+ would impact participation at Facebook or Twitter. Now that the platform has been around for about 18 months, it boasts 400 million users, or about half of what Facebook has achieved in its entire history.
So if someone is telling you that no one is using the platform, they've missed an important memo.
Probably the most important difference between the two platforms (FB and G+) is that some core special interests (like photography, science, and social media technology) have emerged on G+ and are well represented by thought leaders in the fields.
I personally liked the iPad app for G+ better than we liked the FB app, although both were quite presentable and very useful.
Community growth on G+ is vigorous and it's much more driven by common interest than it is by pre-existing friendship. Or to say it another way, on Facebook you connect to WHO you know, and on G+ you connect on the basis of WHAT you know.
The major drawback to G+ business pages (the analog to Facebook Brand/Fan pages) is that there is not yet an API to insinuate content to your page from an outside source. And given that there is also no feature for scheduling the release of updates, community managers who use G+ must post updates and release them at the time of authoring. Not very convenient.
My recommendation for market-facing workers in just about any business is to create accounts for both Facebook and Google+. Spend the time necessary to complete fully formed profiles on both platforms and to connect to everyone you currently know. Then invest about 30 minutes twice a week to maintaining participation on each platform.
The benefits will outweigh the time investment considerably. On the other hand, there are diminishing returns on amounts of time invested above 4 hours a week except for community managers.
Do you have best practices for participation you'd share with others? We'd love to see them in the comments here.